Not quite in the Nick of time as Trailblazers go close against Rockets
NO side has come closer to beating VCARS Division One leaders Reading Rockets this season and Derby Trailblazers were a split second of going closer still.
With four seconds to go and Reading three points ahead, Trailblazers guard Nick Rose found the space to throw up one more desperation shot from well beyond the three-point line and the ball swished through the net.
Derby thought they had forced overtime but the official ruled Rose did not release his shot before the final buzzer sounded and so the basket did not count.
Rockets were 78-75 winners, with victory over Worthing the following day stretching their unbeaten record to 15-0.
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But Trailblazers, down in a lowly 11th place with a 4-10 record, could take huge encouragement from a spirited second-half fightback.
They never led and were down by as many as 17 in the first half but this was a display that built on the better aspects of their trip to Tees Valley the previous weekend and bodes for better times through the remainder of the season.
"I don't think Nick's three-pointer to force overtime was released in time but what aggrieved us was that we thought there was a lane infringement which should have given us the opportunity to call a time-out and bring the ball in at the side line as opposed to having to go the full length of the floor," said coach Jamie Maudsley.
"It's disappointing but, on the positive side, we've just played the top two teams away over the last two weekends.
"If you take away a poor four minutes in each of those games we would have won. We were very close in both games and that can only be good for our confidence.
"You have to remember, we're still a very young team and we're continually learning. We'll definitely grow from it."
Derby started poorly and were 20-8 down after seven minutes, with England Under-18 player of the year Luke Nelson scoring 11.
Reading's biggest lead came two minutes before half-time at 41-24 but three straight turnovers by the home side allowed Derby to add eight points without reply.
That kept Trailblazers in the game and their best spell came late in the third and at the start of the fourth quarters, when they hit 12 points without reply to tie the scores at 62-62, with Martyn Gayle knocking down a pair of three-pointers on his way to 26 points for the game.
Rockets gradually pulled away again and were 71-65 ahead when their captain, Ryan Lohfink, fouled out.
Derby came back again with threes from Jamie McGaffin and Rose to make it 75-75 with 78 seconds remaining but that was to be their last basket of the game.
Gayle and Rose turned the ball over under pressure to force them to send Reading to the line, where they hit three of six free shots.
Danny Carter could have put the win to bed for Rockets only to miss his second free shot but four seconds to get the ball up the court and hit the game-tying shot proved to be not quite enough.
Trailblazers are away again this weekend, with a trip to Westminster Warriors on Saturday (5.15pm).
READING: Carter 29, Nelson 17, Lohfink 15, Champion 12, Parker 5.
DERBY: Gayle 26, Rose 11, Milambo 9, Arogbo 8, Okoroh 7, Allaway 6, Daykin 4, McGaffin 3, Baker 1.